Mot­lanthe’s re­marks hark back to an ANC be­fore Zuma


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - WIL­LIAM SAUN­DER­SON–MEYER Jaun­diced

JUST oc­ca­sion­ally one glimpses, be­hind the dull eyes and zombie-like shuf­fle of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s dis­en­gaged ad­min­is­tra­tion, the val­ues that sus­tained the ANC in the strug­gle years.

It’s a briefly cheer­ing re­minder that all is not yet lost.

This week Kgalema Mot­lanthe, in an un­com­monly frank Busi­ness Day in­ter­view, skew­ered the move­ment to which he has de­voted his life. The ANC’s tri­par­tite al­liance with the SACP and Cosatu was dead, he de­clared, and to be­lieve oth­er­wise was delu­sional.

The ANC blithely ig­nored its own con­sti­tu­tion, as did Cosatu when it ex­pelled its largest af­fil­i­ate, Numsa. The SACP and Cosatu had lost their in­de­pen­dence and been sub­sumed into a sin­gle ANC en­tity, while the tra­di­tion­ally au­ton­o­mous ANC Youth League was now also un­der tight con­trol.

Th­ese are the head­line-grab­bing re­marks. But it is Mot­lanthe’s anal­y­sis of what is caus­ing the grow­ing cri­sis that is more im­por­tant.

The project of cre­at­ing a non­ra­cial, united demo­cratic SA is fal­ter­ing be­cause of an ab­sence of hon­est di­a­logue and be­cause the ANC is pay­ing only “lip ser­vice to th­ese noble ideals”.

An ex­am­ple was the way in which the pres­ence of blacks in the DA is de­rided. “Is it the ex­pec­ta­tion that non racial­ism is only go­ing to hap­pen through the ANC?”

It was then not sur­pris­ing that mi­nori­ties be­gan think­ing that pro­tec­tions and rights “are go­ing to be quickly whit­tled away... Which is why the Afrikaner is draw­ing back into their laager”.

A united SA could be built only if the ANC en­gaged with the dif­fer­ing views of oth­ers “as peo­ple who truly rep­re­sent what­ever views they rep­re­sent”. If, in­stead of posit­ing su­pe­rior ar­gu­ments, it just con­tin­ued to push leg­is­la­tion through “be­cause we have the num­bers”, mi­nor­ity alien­ation was in­evitable.

“The con­sti­tu­tion en­joins us to ad­dress the ac­cu­mu­lated dis­abil­i­ties and heal those wounds caused by the past. But it says we should do it to­gether, be­cause it can’t be done by a sec­tion of the South African peo­ple. You have to mo­bilise the broad­est cross sec­tion.”

Mot­lanthe then de­fends the cor­po­rate sec­tor, a favourite scape­goat of the Zuma gov­ern­ment. “It is in the in­ter­est of gov­ern­ment to en­sure that the en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive for busi­ness to thrive and to cre­ate more jobs so that there are less peo­ple de­pen­dent on so­cial grants and char­ity, oth­er­wise you will have so­cial up­heavals.

“We have a cri­sis and peo­ple who un­der­stand that are the peo­ple in Trea­sury. Ev­ery week they have to go and bor­row money from US as­set man­agers… And so they know and deal with 23-year-old and 24-year-old as­set man­agers who have no re­gard for sen­ti­ment.”

This is the voice of the old, preZuma, ANC. The sen­ti­ments are re­mark­able only be­cause they are in such jar­ring con­trast with the ran­corous and di­vi­sive pub­lic dis­course of to­day, and be­cause they come from a former ANC pres­i­dent of SA, al­beit only as a seven-month standin af­ter former pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki was re­called.

But Mot­lanthe’s as­sess­ments rocked the gov­ern­ment. The al­liance Rot­tweil­ers were on to him in a flash, with the ANCYL la­belling him a counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary and a liar.

Un­usu­ally pla­ca­tory and care­ful was the ANC’s own re­sponse. It de­scribed Mot­lanthe as a “voice of rea­son al­ways on the fore­front of rais­ing per­ti­nent and thought-pro­vok­ing ques­tions… on in­ter­nal chal­lenges that if unat­tended could ma­te­ri­alise as fu­ture prob­lems”.

The im­por­tance of Mot­lanthe’s re­marks is that they were un­am­bigu­ously provoca­tive and pub­lic. That he broke the dis­ci­plined cadre’s code of si­lence about “in­ter­nal chal­lenges” is a sign of his de­spair about what he de­scribes as “a cri­sis”, but the Zuma ANC as­sesses merely as pos­si­ble “fu­ture prob­lems”.

Un­til Mot­lanthe spoke out, the only high-rank­ing de­fend­ers of “old ANC” val­ues have been former mem­bers of Mbeki’s cabi­net, eas­ily dis­missed as bear­ing grudges.

Mot­lanthe, how­ever, is

not eas­ily dis­missed.

He was specif­i­cally brought into the Mbeki cabi­net af­ter Polok­wane by the pro-Zuma fac­tion to pro­tect their in­ter­ests.

In July 2008 Mot­lanthe was re­luc­tantly drafted as min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio, in Septem­ber of that year he be­came demo­cratic SA’s third pres­i­dent, and by May of 2009 he had sur­ren­dered the job to Zuma.

Mot­lanthe has shown of­ten enough in his ca­reer that he is not per­son­ally am­bi­tious.

So, de­spite para­noid fears within the Zuma gov­ren­ment that he might be a stalk­ing horse for some kind of anti- ANC move­ment, that is un­likely.

But his re­marks may, how­ever, be a sign of some kind of anti-Zuma move­ment be­gin­ning to stir. Fol­low WSM on Twit­ter


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